CRADLEY Heathens are set to race back into action when a new speedway season starts this week.
They begin the campaign at Coventry in the Travel Plus Trophy on Friday.
The Heathens will be looking to keep the scores close in the first leg of the contest, with the return at Wolverhampton on Tuesday, April 1.
Skipper Paul Starke is unavailable as he is with Premier League Somerset at their pre-season training weekend. That means a quick return to Heathens colours for Ashley Morris as a guest replacement.
Morris will also ride in the return due to Starke facing up to missing the first three meetings of the Cradley season.
Boss Will Pottinger is looking for a good start from his revamped side that have only been able to retain Max Clegg, Nathan Greaves and Starke from last season’s Grand Slam-winning squad.
He said: “We’ll be looking to hit the ground running again this season and get off to a good start like we did last season.
“We’ve got a couple of challenge matches against Coventry for the Travel Plus Trophy, which will provide some vital track time for the lads, and then once the National League season kicks off we’ll be trying to make sure we get off to a strong start.
“We just can’t wait to get going now. Although we have the target on our backs, we’ll be trying to set out stall out early and show we will be one of the teams to beat again.”
The Cradley side that will take on Coventry on Friday (7.30pm) is set to feature Ashley Morris, Nathan Greaves, Tom Perry, Max Clegg, Steve Worrall, Matt Williamson and Danny Phillips.
Also, ahead of the new season, Heathens young gun Nathan Greaves insists he is ready to make the step up to the main body of the side.
One of only three members of the all-conquering 2013 side still with the club, teenage sensation Greaves will make the move to the number two position in 2014 having spent his debut campaign at reserve.
Yet the talented 16-year-old is confident he has what it takes to make the progression – and after a successful practice session at Monmore Green last week, he is eager to get the season underway.
He said: “I can’t wait to get going now – the season can’t come quick enough. It’s been a pretty long winter but it’s finally over now and I’m just looking forward to being back racing again.
“Obviously I’m moving up to the main body this year but that hasn’t really bothered me that much.
“I was hoping to move up to number two anyway, even if I started at reserve. All it means is I’ve got a bit of a head start. It’s good to be making that step up and I just hope I can score plenty of points.
“I know it’s going to be tougher in the main body, but I know I’m good enough. I just need to try and learn from the mistakes I made last year and hopefully things will go well.
“It was really good to get some laps in at Wolverhampton last week. I’ve been practising at Scunthorpe over the winter so I wasn’t used to being on a tighter track.
“It was a really useful night for me – I got some important track time and I felt pretty quick, which is a good sign.”
Greaves has also stated he believes the 2014 Cradley side has the potential to emulate the team which romped to a clean sweep of honours at National League level last year.
“I think our team potentially looks stronger than last year. We’ve got some really good riders here and I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t manage to defend our league title," he added.